We’re only a few days into the 2019-20 college basketball season. While it is far too early to overreact to teams doing whatever it is that they’ve done, a few freshmen have already burst on the scene with more vengeance than Bruce Willis in a Die Hard movie.
The morning after a full college basketball slate is always enjoyable, as there’s so much to discuss. Yeah, even the disaster that was Virginia-Syracuse. After all, at least we had the new era Vanderbilt Commodores.
Here are a few observations that stood out to us on Wednesday evening.
Cole Anthony Seems Legit
Joseph Nardone (@JosephNardone): Cole Anthony hit the North Carolina campus with so much hype it appeared as though it would be tough for the guard to live up to it. Yet, here we are, 2,019 years after some big deal happened with the world’s most famous carpenter, and dude dropped 34 points in a win against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
For good measure, he also had 10 boards and five assists.
He accounted for 43.2% of North Carolina’s shot attempts; a number that’s simply not sustainable. When Trae Young was at Oklahoma, even he only took 43.2% of his team’s attempts.
To put this in some perspective, Cole Anthony broke Rashad McCants’ record for most points by a UNC freshman in their debut… not that Anthony seemed to care about it.
“It’s cool, I’m going to — not celebrate, but be happy about it a little bit tonight, give myself a little pat on the back,” Anthony said after the game. “But we’ve got practice tomorrow. We’ve got to lock back in. We’ve got a game on Friday.”
It’s A New Era For Vanderbilt
Blake Lovell (@theblakelovell): Jerry Stackhouse’s first game at Vanderbilt was a success, with the program starting the season with an 83-65 win against Southeast Missouri State. It gave Stackhouse his first victory as a college head coach, and more importantly, it helped the program snap a 20-game losing streak after going winless in SEC play a season ago.
While it’s hard to tell a lot from one game, what is obvious is that the Commodores are going to play with toughness and intensity. That was Stackhouse’s approach as a player, and it has been his approach as both a G-League head coach and NBA assistant. And it was already on display in game one.
Vanderbilt had a 17-point lead early on before SEMO made a run to take the lead in the second half. And with several returning players having endured the long losing streak, giving away a lead could’ve rattled them a little bit. However, it didn’t. The Commodores stayed poised and made big plays down the stretch to regain the lead and pick up the 18-point win.
Aaron Nesmith, who is someone I mentioned as an SEC breakout player in the preseason, proved his potential with 25 points and seven 3-pointers. Saben Lee had 21 points off the bench, and Clevon Brown displayed an improved offensive game with 15 points and eight rebounds.
This is still a young team that will have its struggles. But it’s clear that Stackhouse has the Commodores on the right track in terms of how they approach the game. And that has the new head coach chasing his former head coach, the late North Carolina legend Dean Smith, in the wins category.
“878 more and I’ll tie Coach Smith,” the new Vanderbilt coach said with a smile in his postgame press conference.
Virginia-Syracuse Was All The Ugly
Joseph: The job of a college basketball coach is to win games. Not provide us with neat quips, fun anecdotes or entertaining games. On Wednesday night, the Cavaliers and Orange sure as sugar highlighted the last point as if Tony Bennett and Jim Boeheim were mad at us or something.
Combining for 82 points, Virginia managed to win by 14, which is an absurdly large number considering only 33 attempts from the floor made its way through the basket. Then again, most of those were done so by the Cavs, with the Orange shooting a meager 23.6% from the floor and an abominable 17.2% from beyond the arc.
What’s somewhat funny about the final scare is that, in typical Virginia fashion, the game wasn’t sloppily played. The teams combined for only 25 turnovers, and outside both squads being awful from the land of three, the Cavs looked fine otherwise.
Again, Tony Bennett’s job is not to entertain the masses. That being said, my job isn’t to pretend a game like this was fun to consume.
The Story Of Kalin Bennett
Blake: Kalin Bennett, a 6-11 freshman for Kent State, has already given college basketball fans one of the best moments of the season.
Bennett became the first Division I player with autism to earn a scholarship when he signed with the Golden Flashes last season, and he made his debut on Wednesday in the team’s 97-58 win against Hiram. And he didn’t wait long to make an impact:
No disrespect to my guy @notthefakeSVP pick of Cole Anthony as Best Thing He Saw Today, but I am going with Kent State freshman Kalin Bennett – diagnosed with autism — scoring his first college points tonight. So awesome. pic.twitter.com/pRyuRlZFCU
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) November 7, 2019
We love sports because we love sports. However, we also love sports because they always find a way to help us see the bigger picture. And Bennett is yet another reminder of some things being bigger than the game.
In Closing Video Of The Night
Jim Boeheim, who has made millions of dollars coaching college basketball, is mad the ACC is going for a money-grab by having league games this early (he’s right about it being a money-grab). After seeing Virginia-Syracuse, it’s hard to disagree with any of this.
Blake Lovell is a national writer for ClutchPoints. He’s also a contributor for the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook and Athlon Sports College Basketball Preview magazine. He hosts two podcasts: Marching to Madness (CBB) and Establish the Pass (NFL).
You can follow him on Twitter @theblakelovell.
Joseph Nardone has been covering basketball for nearly a decade for various outlets in a variety of ways. He currently contributes to Forbes and Clutchpoints. You can follow him on Twitter @JosephNardone.
Also, be sure to follow the ClutchPoints NCAA Facebook page for more great basketball, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Cole Anthony, recruiting, original analysis and whatever other kinds of discussion. We’re also on Twitter over here. Give us a follow.